I know infant sleep training/habits can be controversial. I am choosing to share our experience with Aiden to hopefully help another mama. All babies are different as are all parents. There is no right way to put your baby to bed and there is definitely no “one size fits all” in sleep training. I read this article the other day and instantly had that “Amen” moment that you rarely have when someone says something that you 100% agree with! Infant sleep has been on the forefront of my mind every single day for the past 10.5 months. I solely nursed Aiden to sleep for 9.5 months. I always assumed that he would eventually go longer stretches at night as he got older, but unfortunately, he was proving me wrong. I had huge bags under my eyes and felt exhausted basically every day since he’s been born, but I accepted this and went on to experience the other joys of my little boy.
I trusted my motherly instincts and decided that I was not ready to throw him in the crib and let him cry either. Despite reading several success stories about sleep training and wishing it was as easy as people had made it seem on paper, I just didn’t think that was for us. We had a few bouts where we would try to have him self soothe starting at about 6 months and they always ended disastrous – Aiden screaming and gagging on his tears and David and I quietly arguing in the other room because I was having a meltdown too. If this was the alternative, I decided I would just get up in the middle of the night however many times that would be.
Finally, I decided at 9.5 months to hire a “sleep consultant.” I was nervous and excited about the possibility of consistently sleeping longer than 3 hour stretches. I thought she would come up with a sensible plan for us to help teach Aiden how to fall asleep on his own. I thought she would support me and make me feel like a good mother for all I had sacrificed for him. I thought that everyone knew how to make your baby cry it out, so she must have some magic solution where the tears would be minimal or at least limited to a few terrible bedtimes. As it turns out, her solution was just like the rest and a total cry it out method.
She made me feel like it was my fault that Aiden wasn’t a good sleeper and that I was weak and unconfident in the way I had mothered him thus far. She told me that he would never know how to self-soothe if I didn’t stop this now. It has gone on far too long and his habits were annoying. Nursing was ruining his ability to grow and develop in the sleep department and I WAS WRONG for doing it that way. We did try a very modified version of what she said and with us letting him “self-soothe” for 10 minutes at a time with us checking on him, he finally slept for about 8 hours every few nights. The nights were definitely better than before.
I’ve left this whole topic marinate in my brain for 1 month now so that I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me while I wrote this and this article again helped put it in better perspective. I agree that Aiden needed to learn how to get himself back to sleep on his own. I knew at 9.5 months that he was frustrated too because he didn’t know how to do that. However, I think we second-guess ourselves entirely too much because so-called “professionals” say that we are doing something wrong or our children are not behaving “normally”.
As a mother, you generally know in your gut if what your child is doing is normal or not. I think we have a skewed vision of what infant sleep habits are actually normal. In my opinion, there are no normal infant sleep habits. Some babies sleep for 12 hours straight and that’s great. Some babies sleep for 3 hours straight and that’s okay too.
Babies physically develop on such a large spectrum, such as teething from 4-18 months. Why should sleep be any different? Guys, there is no patterns to infant sleep – it’s all over the gamut. If you don’t have a good sleeper, find a community of other moms of babies that don’t sleep well! It’s honestly gotten me through. Stop listening to these professionals and other people who will tell you that it’s abnormal. Psychology Today has a list of 15 articles about infant sleep that all say there is no rhyme or reason to it all.
I know that a mother’s instincts are the best thing we’ve got for the safety and health of our babies. I let this woman (amongst other people along the way) tell me to become disconnected from my child in order to be able to listen to him cry and convince myself there was nothing wrong with it. I let her make me believe that what I was doing was wrong and feel guilty for nursing my child. I began to feel helpless in the middle of the night when he would wake up because I thought nursing him back to sleep was bad. I started comparing myself to other moms and babies and see how they were sleeping. I’ve been told this by another wise mother a few times now:
“Comparing yourself steals your joy.”
I obviously want Aiden to sleep better, but I know that this phase isn’t going to last forever and I know refuse to let other people tell me that I’m doing things wrong. It’s not out a of fear to admit my shortcomings because I know I have them. I just don’t want my instinct questioned. I just feel like I need to be his parent at 2 am or some other ungodly hour just as much as I am his parent at 2 pm. He goes through rough patches sometimes and then he has sunshine weeks mixed in there where he sleeps great. It’s all part of the job of being his mother. This my friends is “sleeping like a baby.”